June 2, 2014

Yes, absolutely. But hey, this is a blog for a tax relief company with a small army of tax lawyers, so that’s what we’re paid to say, right? Well, yes, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

Maybe these two true life stories will help:

In January, 2014, Beanie Beans founder Ty Werner was convicted of evading $5.5 million dollartaxs in taxes owed on the $27 million in interest accrued from millions of dollars stashed away in a Swiss bank account. The sentence? Two years on probation and some hefty fines, which were small change for a billionaire like Werner.

Unrelated, and a couple of months earlier, Daniel Thody, a defense contractor was found guilty to five counts of tax evasion for failing to report $15,000 and $50,000 in taxes from $1.8 million earned as a contractor for the Department of Defense. He faces up to 25 years in prison, 5 years for each count. 

Which one do you think hired a lawyer and which one thought representing himself would be the smarter option? The old adage that he who represents himself has a fool for a client may be a cliché, but that doesn’t make it any less true either.

We’ve already shared the 10 benefits of working with a tax relief firm, but here are a few good reasons you should lawyer up when dealing with the IRS.

Taxpayers with Legal Counsel are Treated Better

It’s unfair, even illegal, but it’s also human nature. IRS agents are flesh and blood and if they can get away with bullying someone into their interpretation of the law, they probably will. A tax lawyer can ensure the IRS is playing by the rules and treating you fairly. IRS investigators are much more careful about asking inappropriate questions or wasting your time with unnecessary requirements, if they know they are dealing with a tax attorney. 

That was the finding of an investigation into nine groups in Ohio and Kentucky that sought nonprofit status. Organizations that didn’t have legal representation were more likely to have their applications stalled and receive inappropriate or unnecessary questions from the IRS.

You don’t have to worry about an IRS agent getting upset with you for hiring a tax attorney either. The good ones prefer dealing with tax professionals because they don’t have to waste their time and patience explaining you the ABCs of a tax audit or the basic IRS guidelines for a criminal investigation. In fact, hiring an experienced tax attorney is generally seen as a sign of good faith to resolve your tax issues.

A few bad eggs may resent you hiring a lawyer and try to dissuade from doing so, but that’s when you really need a lawyer in your corner. The IRS’s own Declaration of Taxpayer Rights clearly states that “If you are in an interview and ask to consult such a person [a lawyer, agent or accountant], then we must stop and reschedule the interview in most cases.” Be suspicious if an IRS agent prefers not to deal with a tax professional. 

The IRS Has Serious Muscle

The IRS is a behemoth of an agency, one of the most powerful organizations on the planet. From 2008 through to 2014, over 50 bankers from Switzerland, India, Israel and other countries have been indicted for helping rich Americans squirrel billions of dollars into offshore accounts. 

If you think this is just posturing, you may want to talk to former banker Raoul Weil. In October 2013, he was picked up in Italy while on vacation with his wife and extradited to the United States. He is now on trial for conspiring to help thousands of Americans hide $20 billion in numbered accounts at UBS.

In 2013, the IRS also cracked the code of silence of Swiss financial institutions and got UBS, the largest Swiss Bank, to divulge confidential information on American tax evaders, and pay a $780 million penalty. 

Even The IRS Thinks You Need a Lawyer

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization within the IRS which has the job of ensuring that you are treated fairly and helping you resolve problems with the IRS. Although it’s unlikely a Taxpayer Advocate Service lawyer will protect your interests quite as aggressively as a regular tax attorney, they are better than nothing, if you can’t afford to pay one. 

If money is an issue, there is another option: Low Income Taxpayer Clinics. Although these clinics are partially funded by the IRS, they are completely independent and are operated by nonprofit organizations and academic institutions. 

Only a Tax Attorney Can Represent You in a Criminal Investigation

Certified Public Accountants are great. When it comes to tax planning, business budgeting and asset management, a CPA is – all things being equal – more useful than a tax attorney is. But when you have a dispute with the IRS, especially if you’re accused of tax fraud or tax evasion, a tax lawyer is the only intelligent choice. Tax attorneys are the only ones who can represent you in a court of law and provide you the legal advice and analysis you need.

If that is not reason enough, I have two and a half words for you: attorney-client privilege. Unlike CPAs and accountants, attorneys cannot be subpoenaed to testify against a client in a criminal procedure.

If You Think You Need A Lawyer You Probably Do

Does this mean you need a tax lawyer every time you get a letter from the IRS. No, of course not. You can probably deal with small mistakes and omissions by yourself or by giving your tax preparer a quick call. However, if there is any chance your case could go sour, you need to call a qualified and experienced tax attorney, and pronto. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re asking yourself whether it’s serious enough to merit calling a lawyer, it probably is. 

A quick consultation call with a tax lawyer can save you thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal fees you could have avoided by not procrastinating. Tax lawyers know how IRS attorney think, jeez, many tax attorneys worked as IRS attorneys before hanging their own shingle. So they know what to say, what not to say, and what buttons to push when negotiating your case.

Hiring a lawyer sends the IRS a clear and powerful message. You’re taking the investigation seriously; you’re not going to let IRS agents push you around; and you want to work with the IRS to avoid criminal charges

The bottom line is that the IRS is scary enough when you have a first-rate lawyer at your side. So hire one already